The Theological Cop Out

A few weeks ago I was perusing some Christians singles sights and I came across one with a question and answer section – kind of a Dear Abby for Christian singles.  Most of it was pretty good.  However one of the most real questions got answered in a way that too many people answer singles’ real questions – namely without actually answering the real question.

A woman wrote in and basically said, “Hey I’ve read all the books on singleness and gone to church my whole life where I’ve heard plenty about what to do and not do, and what marriage is about.  However almost no one seems to address getting a date to begin with. What if I don’t have anyone to set boundaries with because I never actually have anyone? How do I know if it’s me?  How do I attract the guy to begin with.”

Now that’s called being real.  She’s saying, “I’m in.  I believe in dating and marrying right.  I’m following Jesus.  Now tell me how to start.  How do I get a date?”  I love this because she has the right heart, commitment and desire.  She just needs help forward. And she is even willing to learn, change and improve.  She’s not even mad.

So does she receive real talk back?  Not so much.  In a nutshell they tell her, “Dating is not the goal, an Ephesians 5 marriage is.  Just because you don’t ever date doesn’t mean you can’t get married.”  And this rich, “The goal is not to get dates but to discern if the person you are dating is a marriage candidate.”  What the . . . ?!  That’s why she is asking the question!!!  She would love to be discerning a candidate – how the heck does she get one.

The really long answer ends with saying, “while you are waiting for this person just focus on the Kingdom and all else shall be added.”

The thing is, it’s not that the person answering her is completely wrong.  We should seek God and the kingdom first.  We should engage community and live life well.  We should look to mature and grow. We should for sure keep in mind that the goal is not to go on 100 first dates.  It’s to find someone to marry.  But this woman was trying to go on one date, not 100.

It all sounds holy and is technically right.  It’s good help you sleep at night theology. Need a job?  Just seek the kingdom.  No reason to put a good resume together or apply anywhere.  God will bring you “the job”.  Now God might dang well bring you a job – but you still apply right?  Or you need to lose 10 pounds.  Just seek the kingdom.  God is in control.  He has you over weight for a reason.  AHHHHHHHHHHH!  In His time he will have you lose that weight.  I mean would you say that?

This sort of Oprah, postmodern “it’s all good crap” combined with bad Calvinism is killing us – and not just in dating.  But dating is one of the biggest places it shows up because it’s an easy answer – or lack of answer as the case may be.

This is especially important as guys.  We have to figure out how to actually act. Now I know some will say that they act and nothing happens.  I get that, I really do.  I’ve been there. For me that meant I needed to bring some others into the conversation at a deep level.  I needed some men to help me quit over thinking and over spiritualizing the whole thing.  I needed some people to challenge what part of my being single was my fault.  People to sit in it with me.

In the end it was that familiar combination of me dealing with my sin (including insecurity – which is a sin) and God bringing someone great into my life.  But I don’t think it would have “just happened”.

Here’s what I’m really getting at.  We need to deal with the reality whatever that is. Yes we need to know the need for sexual boundaries.  We need to keep the end in mind. We need to grow in Jesus.  We need to use discernment. But to get married, especially if you’re over 25, you’ll probably need to first figure out how to go on a date.  Hopefully not 100.  But at least one.

It’s ok to ask those real questions.  Why do women turn me down?  Why do I clam up when I’m around someone I like?  What am I afraid of?  Why is no one attracted to me? Why am I not attracted to anyone? Why can’t I commit? How do I increase attraction early on?  How do I get a date or two?  There are all sorts of answers depending on the situation.  There’s not one nice little answer for everyone.  

To some extent there is theological truth in every situation, fair enough.  But sometimes it’s not the only answer we need.

11 thoughts on “The Theological Cop Out

    • First I’d acknowledge that it can be tough. I think it’s an even tougher question as a woman. I’d encourage her that she has the guts to ask the question, and then I’d ask her some questions.

      I wouldn’t give a for sure answer because I’m not there to see her interact. I’d ask her if there are people around her that would be honest with her or who would walk with her in it.

      If there is stuff that she knows is wrong, I’d try to see what she could do to tackle those things. Basically I’d want to know a lot more about her setting, how she lives in it etc.

      I could suggest some practical things as well. Do you have friends you trust that might set you up. Have you tried online dating at all? What does she enjoy doing and is there a way to do that where there are guys? Again, it depends a lot on what is really going on with her.

      Really it’s got to be more of a conversation – which is what we all need more of in this area.

  1. There are several things that I would ask or advise this lady on based on my own experience regarding the same issues. Some items may be issues she can directly control such as appearance, how she is making herself available to a man for a date, etc. Other items would be issues she can’t directly control, but still could change, Lord willing. Obviously these would apply to all of us singles who are finding ourselves in the same position.

    First, I would ask her frankly about where she lives and whether there are even any single saved men available. Does the church she attend have primarily married individuals who are the age of her parents and older? Does the area she lives in have a strong or weak density of true believers?

    If the answers are that she lives in a rural area, that there are hardly no single saved men available, not a strong density of believers and the church consists of much older married people, then there is only one good option… move! Which is the thing that is within her control to do.

    But if she does live where there are lots of single Godly men available and attends a vibrant church that loves and serves Christ, she will need to ask herself several questions to see what things she can change in herself that would be discouraging to a man to pursue her. I actually sat here and came up with several items that I think apply equally to both men and women who are struggling with why they can’t get from desire to application of beginning the dating to marriage process.

    – Am I overly critical over non biblically related issues in a possible man/woman?
    – Do I have married & single friends who are invested in my life and willing to hold me accountable and give regular guidance as I try to date someone with the goal of marriage?
    – Am I over 25 and still overly attached to my parents at home, or attached to my “mom’s apron strings”?
    – Are their habits in my life that indicate to a man/woman that I may not give them priority over a habit?
    – Am I financially stable to take care of myself, or do I appear to be ‘needy’ for help from a man/woman?
    – Am I a big spender taking on debts I don’t need? Does my impulses drive me to spend money I don’t have?
    – Do I have fear of the unknown in relationships and marriage that make me reluctant to be committed, even though I want to be in a committed relationship?
    – Do I have trust issues with the opposite gender and keep proverbial walls around my heart that prevent me from being loved, and someone else the opportunity to serve and love me?
    – Is my external appearance attractive to a man/woman? Am I groomed and show that I take an interest in keeping myself in good appearance?
    – Do I have sins that need to be repented of, turned over to the Lord, to be conquered that would keep someone else away? (Cursing / gossiping / etc).

    And lastly probably one of the biggest questions to ask ourselves …

    – (For Women) Do I even make myself available through subtle gestures and signs that I’m available and would like their attention and pursuit?

    – (For Men) Am I willing to risk being rejected and resulting hurt in order to step forth in faith to find a lady to pursue?

    This article was great because Justin, you highlighted an issue I’ve dealt with for going on 16+ years of adult singleness. That somehow taking action on my part as a single is somehow un biblical. So many have said to don’t pursue, just sit and wait for this lady to fall into your lap. But you reminded us that God does give us responsibility on our end to take action to make ourselves be available or as men to initiate and pursue. Even though it’s the Lord Himself who is sovereign and brings the individuals together during the exercise of His will on His time.

    Brad

  2. Justin, just posing a fair question. You mentioned in your post that this is “tough for a woman”

    You, being single as long as you were know that “pain is pain” when it comes to singleness, and perhaps to expect that a “woman’s” pain in this area is greater or they somehow “have it worse” than a single man is a tad unfair to both genders.

    Just saying 😉

  3. Hey Jason – I didn’t mean that the pain is worse as a woman. I just think it’s trickier for a woman to go make it happen than a man. Generally speaking of course. Not more painful. It can be painful to ask and get rejected. But it can also be painful to never get asked. That is the end that this woman is on.

    • Okay…fair enough, thanks for making that clear. The other end though is the guy (yeah me) who has always been rejected. I know I can’t wallow, but I have “never” had a date. All of my askings have been “rejections” 😉 and turning 43 soon…..

      That is the end I am on!

  4. This is a great article, however the comments are far more interesting!

    My question is why do Christian men and women presume that it’s the guy’s job to do the asking?! The Bible makes it very clear as to whom should be the spiritual leader and pursuer in marriage, but before-marriage-wisdom isn’t as prevalent. There are countless stories of women of faith who were bold and ballsy (Rahab, Ruth, Esther) and the Bible doesn’t say anything about women being passive.

    So, why can’t we be the ones to ask? Who says we have no control over our singleness?

    • Hey Kelsey – Thanks for the comment. I thought I had responded but apparently I didn’t.

      Here’s what I think – and this is just an opinion. I think it is ok for the woman to initiate the interaction – which is what those women did. But I think if the guy doesn’t respond in a hurry or in a leadership type way, a woman could be setting herself up. If the guy isn’t that interested that could be bad. Or if he never initiates in the dating side, there’s a good chance he won’t be a leader in marriage. It’s not a switch that gets flipped on the wedding day. So to me there is a balance there.

  5. How does a woman show herself available through subtle gestures and signs that she would like to be pursued? Im not the greatest at flirting etc. and especially if I like a guy- I wonder if I give off the opposite vibe?

  6. Oh my goodness, Oh my goodness – the first few paragraphs invoked such emotion that my mind went insane. I literally got up from my computer, paced around the room and repeated “oh my goodness, oh my goodness” – I even did a little insane laugh……. Now i’m not sure if I should cry or laugh at how strange it must have looked to the guy outside. 🙂

    I have been both Christian and have weekly attended the same church for over 17 consecutive years. In retrospect, for 8 or more of those years, much of what you refer to in these paragraphs has been the source of so much pain and frustration, which in turn drove me to porn as a form of escape. When paternal desires started to kick in I was left with no clue about how to attract a women (much less had the means) so I subconsciously concluded in my heart that no christian women would ever love me for anything other then ‘how big my bible was’, ‘how often I performed miracle healing’ or how faithful I was at attending church. That hurt and I sunk deeper. Then after I burnt out in ministry I went though a period of depression. Many of my closest friends had moved on by then so If it wasn’t for the time I spent in the ‘closet’ with God, I would not have gradually made it through the depression.

    Two years ago, I prayed and made the difficult (yet exciting) disition to leave my former church (with prior notice and on good terms) and move to a new church which has provided better support and opportunities (as anticipated).In the last two years I served on the usher/deacon/steward team and I am now a connect / cell / small group leader and the churches web developer.

    I have made many positive changes to my lifestyle and have gained greater confidence in some of the social settings which involve women my age. My conversations with women tend to be a little more active and broader then before (as opposed to passive and only about Spiritual topics). However, I still feel worried that I will mean little more to my future wife then a ‘spiritual guru’, ie: She will love me when I pray, attend church and help old ladies across the road – but she will merely ‘put up’ with my feelings/personality/etc – and worst of all resent my sexuality (after all……..Jesus is all her or myself apparently need). Obviously, I don’t agree with the way the words “All I need is Jesus” is been used – but my fear is that too many single christian women do – and/ that our marriage will subsequently be without soul….. will she feel a strong desire for me, or will she just settle for me out of necessity ?

    Ok, I am getting sleepy (and you might be getting sleepy reading this 🙂 ), so I will finish by complimenting you on this post (and a number of your other posts that I have read). Not only did it hit a nail on the head, but I suspect that I found your article because God wanted to shine some light on the truth (which is often part of a healing process).

    God Bless,
    Dave

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